History of Germany - H. E. Marshall

Leopold I

Besides fighting directly with the Empire, Louis encouraged other rulers to do the same. The Turks, as you know, had long been a danger to the Empire, and Louis, who delighted in the name of Most Christian King, now constantly encouraged the Sultan to make war against Leopold. At length a great Turkish army entered Hungary, and marched towards Vienna.

The host of dark-faced, turbanned warriors rolled through the land like a destroying plague. Terror went before them; they left desolation and misery in their train. The Emperor fled from Vienna, leaving the Count of Starhemberg to defend the city. And gallantly he defended it. For two long months the Turkish host raged around the walls. They laid desolate the country, until for miles it was a desert, strewn with ruins and ashes. Famine and plague stalked through the city. The garrison were utterly worn out, and not only the garrison but all the able-bodied citizens, the students, and working men, who had fought manfully to defend their homes. Ammunition, too, was almost at an end.

For three days more the brave commander knew he could hold out; but for three days only. Then, unless help came, the Turks would be masters of the city.

By day the watchers on the walls strained their eyes in all directions, hoping against hope to catch the flicker of a banner, or the glint of sunshine on burnished steel. By night, from the high tower of St. Stephen's Church, rockets were sent up as signals of distress, in the hope that some friendly on-coming host would see and answer. But the autumn days went past and no one came.

At length, however, one night the rockets were answered. Three cannon shots boomed forth in the silence of the night, and a thrill of joy ran through Vienna. Help at last was at hand. It was John Sobieski, the King of Poland, who came with a great army of Poles and Germans.

The next day a battle took place. From morn till night the battle raged, but at length the Turks fled in utter confusion, leaving a great quantity of rich booty behind them.

The day after John Sobieski rode into the town in triumph. The people thronged the streets, cheering and weeping with joy. They crowded round their deliverer praising and blessing him, happy if they touched his clothing, or kissed his stirrup.

But the Emperor did not share in his people's transports. A few days later, when he returned to his liberated city, he greeted the King of Poland with cold politeness. It hurt his dignity that his capital should have been saved by such a petty King, so he neither raised his hat nor got off his horse to greet him.

This battle did not end the war. But now many of the people of Europe joined in helping Leopold against the Turks. At length they were driven out of Hungary, and in 1699 the war came to an end by the Peace of Carlowitz.

But in the meanwhile war had once more broken out with France, and Louis's soldiers overran the Palatinate, doing deeds of unheard-of cruelty.

All Europe now joined with Leopold against Louis. But still for seven years the struggle lasted. It was a European rather than a German war, and was brought to an end by the Peace of Ryswick. By this Peace Germany had again to give up some of her possessions. As usual France gained some.

But Europe was not long to enjoy peace, and in 1701 another terrible war burst forth. This was the War of the Spanish Succession.

In 1700 Charles II, King of Spain, died, leaving no son to succeed him. A short time before he died he had been persuaded to make a will leaving all his many possessions to Philip of Anjou, the grandson of Louis XIV. Philip was also the grand-nephew of Charles II, for Louis XIV had married his sister Maria. But when he married the Spanish princess, Louis had given up all claims to the Spanish throne.

Now the Emperor Leopold had also married a Spanish princess, the younger sister of Maria, and upon his marriage with her he had not given up any claim to the Spanish throne. He therefore claimed the Spanish crown for his son Charles.

As neither side would give way war began. But it was not a war merely between France and Germany; it was a European war. The Protestant powers, with King William III of Britain at their head, took sides with the Emperor. And although William died before the war was fairly begun, Queen Anne continued it. And the great leaders on the Emperor's side were the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene of Savoy.

Prince Eugene of Savoy was a shabby little man, and Louis XIV called him the little Abbot, because as a child he had been so sickly and small that his parents thought he could not possibly be a soldier, and decided to make him a priest. Eugene, however, did not want to be a priest. He wanted to be a soldier, and when he was nineteen he asked Louis to give him a place in his army.

Louis, however, only laughed at the sickly little man. So Eugene, with wrath in his heart, left France and joined the Austrian army. There he soon gained great fame and became a field-marshal in the Imperial army. Louis was sorry then that he had laughed at the shabby little man, and did all he could to win him back. again. He sent messengers to the Prince offering to make him a marshal of France; but Eugene would not go. "Tell your King," he said to Louis's messengers, "that I am field-marshal to an Emperor, and that is as good a title as any he can offer me."

Now this little man, clad in a big blue coat, a huge wig, and a battered old hat, all of which seemed too large for his thin little body, shared the honours of the war with Marlborough, who was dashing and splendid, the handsomest man of his time.

Eugene's soldiers loved him for his courage and his kindness, and were ready to follow him everywhere. Soon he won victory after victory.

The war was fought in Italy, in Spain, in Bavaria, in the Netherlands, and in Germany. And while it still raged Leopold died. He was sixty-five years old, and had reigned for forty-seven years. He was a kindly enough man but no great ruler. Like all his house he was bigoted, at times obstinate as a mule, at times wavering and undecided. He hated war, yet his whole reign was spent in fighting.